The politics of hybridity in everyday Africa: informalization and security and development

Conveners: Susan T Jackson, Department of Economic History, Stockholm University and Stephen Marr, Department of Global Political Studies, Malmö Högskola


The consideration of urban dynamics in African cities – processes related to what we might term “social infrastructure”; the informalization of political, social and economic life; the amorphous boundaries between public and private institutions (the literature refers to this ambiguity, for example, as a politics of “hybridity”) – is highly significant for studying security and development. By bringing in the everyday performances of security and development ranging from policing to corporate projects and elsewhere, a close look at the urban experience in sub-Saharan Africa offers a way to evaluate the needs of publics as well as the appropriateness and effectiveness of donor interventions. In particular, this panel proposes to discuss the politics in/of the everyday to see whether, and how, people are appropriating international discourses in their everyday and implementing global goals locally. What kinds of tensions and solutions do we find when we take a closer look at informalization and the politics of hybridity in the context of security and development in everyday Africa? For example, when considering the usual top-down Western interventions in (militaristic) formal police structures, what then is the role of informal community self-policing or the integration of community-driven social media in local security discussions (e.g., hashtags and the Westgate Mall attacks in Kenya)? How are Western headquartered corporations promoting CSR gender equality agendas that might be counter to development in Africa, and how do local communities experience and respond to these programs? In order to discuss these types of outcomes that might not intuitively fit the overall European model or expectations of security and development in Africa, this panel brings together academics and practitioners in a mediated conversation format to address the politics of the everyday in a variety of security and development areas in urban environments in sub-Saharan Africa.

24 Aug., 09:00–10:30, Ahlmann Lecture Hall

  • Climate citizenship, inequality and infrastructure. Stephen Marr, Malmö University.
  • Social media and performing informal security. Susan T. Jackson, Stockholm University.
  • Women's empowerment and business. Catia Gregoratti and Katherine Allison, Lund University.
  • Child labor and informal weaving sector. Garedew Yilma Desta, Lund University.
  • Community courts and truth telling. Fabio Provenzano, University of Copenhagen.


Climate citizenship, inequality and infrastructure. Stephen Marr, Malmö University.

The proposed paper seeks to examine dynamics of inequality, sustainability and urban governance via large-scale urban engineering projects underway in Lagos and Kinshasa.  The Eko Atlantic development in Lagos, along with Kinshasa’s La Cité du Fleuve, are both intended to resolve problems wrought by failing infrastructure and poor planning, while also serving as an investment against future ravages caused by a changing climate.  The pursuit of these goals, in Lagos, Kinshasa and elsewhere however, often comes at the cost of increasing exclusion and inequality within the space of the city.  Of particular importance in the coming years then, is the question of to what extent urban inequality and sustainability will come into conflict as cities are divided into neighborhoods occupied by climate haves and have-nots.  Understanding the interaction between unequal urbanization in Africa and the changing scope of sustainability politics in an era of climate change is an urgent task for scholars and policymakers.  The paper relies on both comparative urban studies literature, along with planning and promotional material related to these projects in order to trace the emerging contours of climate exclusion in contemporary urban Africa.

Social media and performing informal security. Susan T. Jackson, Stockholm University.

According to Cukier and Mayer-Schoenberger, if all the world’s electronic information were burned onto CDs and the CDs then were stacked one upon the other, there would be at least five separate stacks of these CDs, each reaching from Earth to the moon. Further, according to this estimate, digital data was only one-quarter of the world’s information in 2000, but since then the amount of digital data doubles every three years, meaning that now less than 2 percent of stored information is not in digital form. User generated content on social media is a growing component of the production of digital information and an increasingly important site for performing politics, yet political science literature on social media generally focuses on traditional actors, and perhaps except in counter-terrorism efforts) it ignores personal everyday communication that might tell us something about informal ways of performing security. In addition, much of this political science work excludes social media use in the Global South. In this sense, I examine the role of social media in security in the everyday in rapidly changing urban environments in Africa by asking: What effect does social media use to perform security? From blogs that intend to expose police corruption to Twitter campaigns to spread word about rounding up and deporting immigrants, I begin by mapping the types of social media use in Kenya to try to understand how people use social media in the everyday.

Women's empowerment and business. Catia Gregoratti and Katherine Allison, Lund University.

This paper explores different modalities of women’s ‘empowerment’ in Rwanda. Attention to empowerment has been growing across the field of feminist, gender and development studies and with it an awareness of how women are increasingly rendered as subjects and objects of development and security. While there exists an expansive feminist critique of contemporary forms of empowerment as having become emptied of original transformative intent in favour of the instrumentalisation of women’s labour to serve economic growth, what is less explored is empowerment as a differentiated, contingent process performed by hybrid constellations development actors. As such we attempt to speak to this lacuna by comparing four separate initiatives engaged in empowerment work with Rwandan women. Using fieldwork conducted in the country we look at a partnership between four different constellations – a global retailer and its local supplier; a social enterprise with connections to a wide number of international fashion brands; a partnership between Kigali City council and an international organisation; an internationally funded local NGO. Through our analysis we offer a close comparison of empowerment as being differentiated by forms of labour, training and care.

Child labor and informal weaving sector. Garedew Yilma Desta, Lund University.

Child labor is a widespread and growing phenomenon in today’s world. Child labor is the most common and fatal form of exploitation and abuse. Though child labor is exists in all parts of the world, the extent of the problem is very high in developing countries. Ethiopia is one of the countries where child labor exists in an extensive scale. The study has aimed to examine causes and impacts of child labor on children who are engaged in weaving activity shiro-meda area, Addis Ababa. The research has used qualitative research design to in order to generate relevant data as exhaustively as possible the issue under study. In-depth interviews have been conducted with ten working children and six key informants in the study area using purposive sampling. In addition, two separate focus group discussions have been done. The findings of study have shown that the causes of child labor from supply side are: poverty, rapid urbanization and migration, traditional factors, and other legal, social and economic factors. From the demand side, children are less aware about their rights, less troublesome, cheap and more submissive than adult workers. The study also found out that child labor has negative impact on the children’s physical, health, education and psycho-social development.

Community courts and truth telling. Fabio Provenzano, University of Copenhagen.

Since the early 1990s, Mozambique has been experimenting with a transition from a socialist to a capitalist system, process common in many African countries. This has involved various political reforms affecting, among other spheres, its juridical system. Such changes have included opening up the space for many indigenous organisations, strengthening the role of traditional leaders and local institutions settling disputes and bringing security in both rural and urban areas. Among the most popular of these institutions is the ‘community court’, a hybrid institution combining both the European colonial and Mozambican traditional legal orders, used for solving cases from witchcraft accusations to land disputes. These courts number around 40 units in Maputo alone, the Mozambican capital. This paper investigates actors’ strategies of truth-telling during ‘community court’ sessions in Maputo. It explores the moral economy of actors’ performances in the negotiation of sentences, as well as practices like judges seeking to attain a certain degree of intimacy with various participants in the courts, and the use of objects symbolising state authority. It notes that the emphasis within court sessions has been primarily on the representations of the defendants shared by ‘community’ members, rather than on evidence related to the cases. The paper is part of ongoing research on urban governance strategies of non-state actors, focused on city inhabitants’ perceptions of ‘community judges’. It draws on fieldwork conducted in Maputo from August 2015 to April 2016, including interviews and six months of participant observation inside two community courts in the outskirts of the city.